The 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil kicked off Thursday in São Paulo in a way guaranteed to warm most fans' hearts -- with a colorful, star-studded opening ceremony followed by a spectacular albeit controversial win against Croatia for the national team in the tournament's first game, while protests raged on outside during and after the event.

After stunning dance performances by 500 performers, a giant colorful ball in the middle of the stadium opened up to present rapper Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte on stage, who then performed “We Are One,” the official song of the 2014 World Cup.

After the opening ceremony, it was time for Thiago Silva’s men to spring into action and notch a win for the national side. Neymar, who has been the face of the Brazilian team in the lead-up to this World Cup, rose to the occasion and scored two goals to give his team a 3-1 victory over Croatia. Oscar, the attacking midfielder, scored the third goal for Brazil only minutes before the final whistle.

While it was mostly party-time in São Paulo, many people assembled outside the stadium to protest against alleged overspending by Brazil's government on the tournament, which they claim has diverted much needed funds away from services such as education, health and security. Earlier on Thursday morning, violence erupted in São Paulo when police clashed with protesters about seven miles from the Arena Corinthians stadium, CNN reported.

Here is a look at the day in pictures from Brazil.